Rivers are life
By: Michael Simon
Noonbah Station sits pretty much smack bang in the centre of Queensland. It's in the heart of the so-called Channel Country. With International Rivers running campaigns for river protections globally, I was keen to see one of the biggest fights currently being fought for rivers in my country, Australia. I've come here four months after the last big rains to learn more about the life that's at stake if these free-flowing rivers aren't protected from their latest threat - fracking.
Queensland's Channel Country rivers underpin extensive wildlife in the hot, often dry, floodplain ecosystems. The braided rivers form an extensive natural channel network, and their floodplains have supported indigenous peoples for millennia, providing food and refuge in hard times and good.
On the surface there's a strange mix of bed-fellows wanting these rivers and the floodplain country protected. Regional tourism is growing fast off the back of new protected areas and iconic natural history sites. Environmentalists know the value of these river ecosystems for diverse bird populations. Indigenous peoples, many disenfranchised from their country, retain strong links to country. And graziers, with long connection through leaseholds, rely on a healthy floodplain to raise cattle and sheep. I've come to understand more about how the rivers provide economic value for communities here; including in particular the local graziers like Angus and Karen Emmott from Noonbah.
Its the graziers who are some of the strongest advocates for river protection in this area right now. These rivers and their rich grass plains, now support the world's largest organic beef operations. But that industry, and the rivers which bring the economic bounty for the pastoralists, face new pressures—coming in the form of gas exploration and fracking. There's a new alliance for the western rivers, and a campaign building, to keep the rivers free flowing, protected from pipelines and drill bores.